Everyone’s doing it; it must be okay

Last week I didn’t post the day after I wrote about circumcision. I didn’t, and still don’t, want my site to become only about circumcision. The topic had built so long that I had to resist the urge to post again. I’d planned to keep this plan for a while longer, but I need to respond to someone else’s post about my first entry. I’m still keeping my goal, but this is necessary. As last time, I use coarse language and graphic descriptions. Etc., etc.


Call my circumcision post bitching, moaning, and wailing if you like; I’ve certainly been known to do all of those here. But I wrote it based on my research and my experience. You have the right ability to disagree with me that there are “supposed evils of male circumcision”. But before I stroll through the evils of male circumcision, in general, I’ll remind you that I wrote that routine infant male circumcision is evil. I even mentioned that I think adult male circumcision is stupid, but that adults may choose that for themselves if they like. It’s just easier to post two links, one of which goes back to my post, and then write that “this appears to be largely a gay thing” than it is to actually consider the facts, I guess. Anyway, now that I’ve clarified what I already clarified, I’ll propose some of the evils of male circumcision.

I’ll start with the basics. These are the purposes of a healthy, intact foreskin [footnotes from original article]:

  • Protection: Just as the eyelids protect the eyes, the foreskin protects the glans and keeps its surface soft, moist, and sensitive. It also maintains optimal warmth, pH balance, and cleanliness. The glans itself contains no sebaceous glands–glands that produce the sebum, or oil, that moisturizes our skin.[11] The foreskin produces the sebum that maintains proper health of the surface of the glans.
  • Immunological Defense: The mucous membranes that line all body orifices are the body’s first line of immunological defense. Glands in the foreskin produce antibacterial and antiviral proteins such as lysozyme.[12] Lysozyme is also found in tears and mother’s milk. Specialized epithelial Langerhans cells, an immune system component, abound in the foreskin’s outer surface. Plasma cells in the foreskin’s mucosal lining secrete immunoglobulins, antibodies that defend against infections.
  • Erogenous Sensitivity: The foreskin is as sensitive as the fingertips or the lips of the mouth. It contains a richer variety and greater concentration of specialized nerve receptors than any other part of the penis.[15] These specialized nerve endings can discern motion, subtle changes in temperature, and fine gradations of texture.[16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23]
  • Coverage during Erection: As it becomes erect, the penile shaft becomes thicker and longer. The double-layered foreskin provides the skin necessary to accommodate the expanded organ and to allow the penile skin to glide freely, smoothly, and pleasurably over the shaft and glans.
  • Self-Stimulating Sexual Functions: The foreskin’s double-layered sheath enables the penile shaft skin to glide back and forth over the penile shaft. The foreskin can normally be slipped all the way, or almost all the way, back to the base of the penis, and also slipped forward beyond the glans. This wide range of motion is the mechanism by which the penis and the orgasmic triggers in the foreskin, frenulum, and glans are stimulated.
  • Sexual Functions in Intercourse: One of the foreskin’s functions is to facilitate smooth, gentle movement between the mucosal surfaces of the two partners during intercourse. The foreskin enables the penis to slip in and out of the vagina nonabrasively inside its own slick sheath of self-lubricating, movable skin. The female is thus stimulated by moving pressure rather than by friction only, as when the male’s foreskin is missing.
  • Now that we know the foreskin isn’t useless, what can happen when it’s removed? I mentioned how a newborn’s foreskin doesn’t begin to retract until a few years into life, at the earliest. The foreskin and glans are essentially fused together. With circumcision, as practiced in the United States, the doctor forcibly separates the child’s foreskin from his glans. This leads to scarring of the glans as sensitive skin is ripped away. Scarring and removal of nerve cells will lead to reduced sensitivity. Less commonly, forcing the foreskin from the glans may not separate all skin, leaving skin bridges. Google “skin bridges” if you think that might be a pleasant outcome.

    Once the child is circumcised, at least his penis will be cleaner, right? Unfortunately, the foreskin has a role in protecting the penis. Society believes that smegma is dirty and must be eliminated. Society believes the foreskin will trap urine and cause infection. However, removing the foreskin exposes the penis to urine and feces for extended periods. Diapers act as sealants, guaranteeing constant contact with waste products the intact penis is designed to protect against. Wow, that’s not really cleaner, is it?

    As the child ages, nothing else happens because the circumcision is in the past, right? If you guessed “yes”, you’re wrong. As the child ages, the now-exposed glans and remaining foreskin encounter constant contact with diapers and clothing. This contact causes wear on the penis. Where the glans of an intact penis will encounter little abrasive contact, the circumcised penis suffers constant contact. Without the foreskin and its naturally-lubricating glands, the penis has no protection. This will lead to keratinization, or what may generally be considered calluses. This, however, does not go away because there is no rest period for the circumcised penis. It remains in constant contact. This will worsen throughout the male’s life.

    Men can still enjoy sex, though. Right? Of course, but at what cost? After the foreskin is peeled away, the doctor is left to estimate an appropriate amount of skin to remove. This isn’t obvious as it would be in an adult male who’s undergone puberty and the effects it has on the body. The doctor will remove this skin once he’s estimated the correct amount. If the doctor guesses incorrectly and leaves too much, this can be adjusted (or not) later. If the doctor guesses incorrectly and leaves too little, too bad. The child will now suffer tight, perhaps painful, erections.

    Once he becomes sexually active, the circumcised male may deal with the additional bonus of skin tearing. This will occur when his too tight (or even looser) circumcision tears due to the friction of sexual intercourse. There will be blood. There will be pain. There may even be additional scarring. All of those are quite conducive to a happy sex life, no?

    Of course, it’s possible to decipher that from the link to Andrew Sullivan you provided. I wonder, though. Did you read what he lists in his anti-circumcision argument? I suspect not, so consider these details from “a study published in the British Journal of Urology”:

    When the anatomically complete penis thrusts in the vagina, it does not slide, but rather glides on its ownbeddin of movable skin, in much the same way that a turtls neck glides in and out on the folded layers of skin surrounding it. The underlying corpus cavernosa and corpus spongiosum slide within the penile skin, while the skin juxtaposed against the vaginal wall moves very little. This sheath-within-a sheath alignment allows penile movement, and vaginal and penile stimulation, with minimal friction or loss of secretions. When the penile shaft is withd
    rawn slightly from the vagina, the foreskin bunches up behind the corona in a manner that allows the tip of the foreskin, which contains the highest density of fine-touch neuroreceptors in the penis [1], to contact the corona of the glans, which has the highest concentration of fine-touch neuroreceptors on the glans [18]. This intense stimulation discourages the penile shaft from further withdrawal, explaining the short-thrusting style that women noted in their unaltered partners. This juxtaposition of sensitive neuroreceptors is also seen in the clitoris and clitoral hood of the Rhesus monkey [19] and in the human clitoris [18].

    Wait, the foreskin has a function in sexual intercourse? Evolution couldn’t be that smart, could it? We’re led to believe that the foreskin is like the appendix, with no clear reason why man still has it, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Of course, you do go on to state that “straight women are pretty solidly on the other side for reasons that are readily comprehensible”? I’m not sure what constitutes readily comprehensible, but I suspect they’re reasons of ignorance more than reasons of preference. However, I’m momentarily willing to grant that women are solidly on the circumcision side. So what? I discussed that in my original post, noting that it was irrelevant because women don’t get to decide how a man should be, only if she wishes to be with him as he is. But I’ll quote just for emphasis. His answer is in response to a parent, but it’s still relevant. Consider:

    Some men and women gag at the site of an uncircumcised penis, A.Z., but they’re assholes that you wouldn’t want your grown son to fuck anyway, right? Besides, circumcision rates in the United States are falling–just 65 percent of all newborn males are circumcised today–so the men and/or women your son will one day be fucking and/or be fucked by are unlikely to be disgusted by an uncut cock, A.Z., as they will either have encountered more of them or they’ll have one themselves. As for whether or not men prefer to be circumcised, well, most cut men are happy with their dicks, A.Z., and most uncut men are happy with theirs. The thing about the unhappy cut men, though, is that they can’t get uncut, you know what I’m saying?

    I’d apologize for his language, but fuck it, this topic is too important to be polite. But I’ll add a clarification based on the argument that parents decide to circumcise their son(s) because of women’s preferences. I’m assuming this comes down to the mother’s reasoning when including women’s preferences. She knows what women want, etc. But enough explaining.

    When a mother accepts the decision with the (partial, at least) reasoning that her son’s future sexual partner(s) will prefer his penis if he is sans foreskin, she sexualizes her son with an external expectation of what’s appropriate inconsistent with parental duties. She’s more worried about another mother’s daughter than she is about her son. If she must sexualize her child, she should ask herself the better question, “Which foreskin status will he prefer?”. In that context, the answer should be obvious. Regardless of whether or not he wants to remain intact, that choice remains his if he is intact until adulthood. When circumcised as a child, he loses that choice. His personal preference remains relevant in his life, but becomes frustrating and impossible to satisfy if it requires his foreskin. So, no, I don’t particularly care what women prefer when it comes to the dealing with an intact penis when the alternative is a mutilated penis.

    It’s certainly possible that none of this will convince you of the evils of male circumcision. Remember, if it helps, to put this in the context of routine infant male circumcision. I’ll end this discussion with this statement and a simple declaration. Consider:

    The gross inadequacy of these arguments [for circumcision] is yet another instance of people failing to develop or apply the all-important philosophical skill of thinking in principles. People simply don’t often-enough ask questions like: Would this sort of argument hold water in other, similar cases? As a result, they accept all manner of ludicrous conclusions simply because the arguments, taken in stark isolation, seem unobjectionable. As a result, people who would never dream of cutting off a child’s ears so as to eliminate the problem of dirt collecting behind them are willing to cut off the foreskin so as to prevent the collection of smegma.

    America must afford equal protection to boys. Routine circumcision of males must stop. Now.